TECH TALK: Let’s Build a Business: 5. Project Gutenberg for India

The last idea (for now) has significant social implications along with the commercial ones. It is the equivalent of Project Gutenberg for India making ebooks out of Indias rich library of writings through the centuries.

So, what is Project Gutenberg? From the website: Project Gutenberg is the first and largest single collection of free electronic books, or eBooks. Michael Hart, founder of Project Gutenberg, invented eBooks in 1971 and continues to inspire the creation of eBooks and related technologies today. Currently, there are 17,000 ebooks available for free on the website, with 2 million copies downloaded each month. The book collection is done entirely by volunteers. In this case, I am willing to make a seed investment to get this started.

Here is some history about Project Gutenberg:

In 1971, Michael Hart was given $100,000,000 worth of computer time on a mainframe of the era. Trying to figure out how to put these very expensive hours to good use, he envisaged a time when there would be millions of connected computers, and typed in the Declaration of Independence (all in upper case–there was no lower case available!). His idea was that everybody who had access to a computer could have a copy of the text. Now, 31 years later, his copy of the Declaration of Independence (with lower-case added!) is still available to everyone on the Internet.

During the 70s, he added some more classic American texts, and through the 80s worked on the Bible and the collected works of Shakespeare. That edition of Shakespeare was never released, due to copyright law changes, but others followed.

Starting in 1991, Project Gutenberg began to take its current form, with many different texts and defined targets. The target for 1991 was one book a month. 1992’s target was two books a month. This target doubled every year through 1996, when it hit 32 books a month.

Today, we have a target of 500 books a month.

India has a very rich literary culture across many centuries and languages. It would be nice to put it all together into a digital archive for future generations. In fact, given the availability of computers and mobiles, the day is not far off when books can be released simultaneously across multiple digital media along with the print copies. Google Books is working with publishers worldwide to bring their texts online. We need something similar for India.

Interested in leading or being part of this venture? Email me at or fill out this feedback form with a brief profile of yourself, your thoughts on the ideas presented, and your thinking about the role that you’d like to play in the venture.

TECH TALK Build Business+T

Published by

Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.